What do we stand to lose in a world without ice?
A decade ago, novelist and short story writer Jean McNeil spent a year as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, and four months on the world’s most enigmatic continent — Antarctica. Access to the Antarctic remains largely reserved for scientists, and it is the only piece of earth that is nobody’s country. Ice Diaries is the story of McNeil’s years spent in ice, not only in the Antarctic but her subsequent travels to Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard, culminating in a strange event in Cape Town, South Africa, where she journeyed to make what was to be her final trip to the southernmost continent.
In the spirit of the diaries of Antarctic explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, McNeil mixes travelogue, popular science, and memoir to examine the history of our fascination with ice. In entering this world, McNeil unexpectedly finds herself confronting her own upbringing in the Maritimes, the lifelong effects of growing up in a cold place, and how the climates of childhood frame our emotional thermodynamics for life. Ice Diaries is a haunting story of the relationship between beauty and terror, loss and abandonment, transformation and triumph.
Jean McNeil is the author of ten books including four novels and a collection of short fiction. Her work has been short-listed for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Journey Prize, and she has won the Prism International prize for short fiction and subsequently for narrative non-fiction. A two-time finalist for ACTRA’s Nellie Award celebrating excellence in Canadian broadcasting, she is also a three-time nominee for the ReLit Award. She is the co-director of the Masters in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia and lives in London, England.
“Ice Diaries is stunningly written and should be on the shelf of anyone fascinated by the globe’s final geographic and psychic frontier.”— New York Times
“It's a discussion of the Antarctic as a physical landscape — its impact on the imagination — and an exploration of one person's inner world.” — Chicago Tribune
“Ice Diaries artfully conveys both the magical allure and the deadly hauteur of this icy world that few of us will ever see.” — Toronto Star
“McNeil’s first-person narrative of her experience wholly absorbs. . . Most of Ice Diaries, however, reads like a novel. It’s a paradox: the best novels emulate real life and the best true stories emulate fiction.” — Maclean’s
“McNeil’s gripping book, a memoir of her stint as ‘the writer’ during an Antarctic summer, is a vivid depiction of the human community in the ‘granite quarry-crossed-with-a-penal-colony’ of a polar base camp. This sci-fi landscape is suffused with menace and foreboding but so, McNeil remembers, is home.” — The Guardian Best Books of 2018